The Inca Trail is one of the most famous treks in the world, a beautiful hike through the Andes to the famed lost city of Machu Picchu. Travelers who wish to see the iconic ruins of the Incan empire have no better means of discovering the site than this path.
A busy road
Some hikers expect the trail to be an isolated journey through the clouds, only to find it crowded with people - 75,000 a year to be exact, according to Frommer's. Indeed, the trail has been so busy over the last few decades that a series of regulations has limited the number of travelers on the path per day. Demand is so high that the trail is often booked solid months to a year in advance. Yet, travelers would do well to remember that the path was actually once a thoroughfare set amid a vast network of ancient buildings and roads. Having to share the trail may not be such an inauthentic experience, after all.
While the name implies one path, travelers have their choice of at least three routes while still getting to experience the Inca Trail. The classic trek, which is the most scenic, takes four days, offering plenty of ruins and mountain scenery to ogle. It also demands plenty of its hikers. The two-day route is not as pretty but is much more doable for those who can't handle the steep elevations of the classic trail. The last alternative, proposed by IncaTrailPeru.com is a seven-day journey for hikers that really want to test themselves. Before linking up with the classic route, travelers will spend three days working their way around the Salkantay mountain.
Preparing to go
Whichever trail people choose, it's important that they make the right preparations. The hike into the Andes is difficult for most, if for no other reason than the high altitude. No matter what, hikers should give themselves at least two days to adjust to the high altitudes in Cusco before beginning their journey. Once setting out, it's important to be prepared with all of the essentials. Vendors will sell bottled water and snacks on the way, so it's a good idea for travelers to carry currency just in case. Also, the trail gets cold at night, so it's important to have sleeping bags and warm clothes even when hiking in Peru's summer months. According to Lonely Planet, the best time to visit is between May and September when the trails are busy but dry.
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